What To Do Before Applying for Your First Job After College

It's time to apply for your first job out of college. Even if you consider yourself well-seasoned in the practice of applying for jobs, you should make sure you cover all your bases to increase your chances of success. These tips will help prepare you to apply for your first post-college work.

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By Sarah Wright

job search tips for college grads

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest

If you already know exactly what industry you want to work in, and kind of job you want in that industry, you can skip this step. But if you're not exactly sure of what you want to do, you should start thinking carefully about what you'd be willing to do. Aim for entry-level jobs that can put you in a direction that you're interested in long-term. Your first job might not be the most glamorous position ever, but it should set you up nicely to get on a good career path.

Step 2: Spruce up (or Write) Your Resume

A good resume is essential to getting positive attention from people who make hiring decisions. A sloppily formatted resume that's full of grammatical and spelling errors is going to make a terrible impression that is highly unlikely to land you a job. Spend some time looking up resume templates to get a good idea of what yours should look like. Get friends to look it over and give suggestions on what you can fix or improve. Show it to an established professional, preferably one who has had experience with hiring, to see if they have any tips for how you can stand out.

Step 3: Network

Now that you know what you want to do, and you have written out a resume that proves you can do it, it's time to get out and meet some people who can help you get where you want to go. Your school's alumni network is a great place to look for people who are well established in the line of work that interests you. Additionally, friends and relatives might have professional connections that can prove helpful. Just be polite and remember that no one who talks to you owes you anything. Good advice can be just as valuable as a job offer at this stage.

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Step 4: Learn to Write a Cover Letter

In addition to a good resume, a good cover letter is essential to making a lasting positive impression on potential employers. The letter should be focused, professional and free of errors. It's a good idea to check out examples of cover letters on the Internet or through your campus career center, but ultimately, you'll need to make it your own. You can practice writing letters and having friends read over them to make sure you've done a good job.

Step 5: Practice Interviewing

The interview is the final, and arguably most important, part of the job application process. For even the most poised and socially confident people of all ages, these experiences can be nerve-wracking. You can't necessarily control your nerves, but you can control your preparedness. Look up and think about your answers to common interview questions like 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' and 'Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem.' When you receive an interview offer from a specific company, make sure that you research that company and find out what they do, what their office is like and what the position you're applying for requires. Come up with a few questions to ask during the interview to display your interest in the position.

In considering what you want to do for a living, you might find that a master's degree is required for your career path.

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